LIC H.S. Students, Faculty, Elected Officials Decry School Closings
The sentiment of the student body regarding the future of Long Island City H.S. was clear at the April 17 public hearing concerning the school’s possible closing and reopening under a different name with different faculty: the school is their home. But with public hearings concluded on the proposed closure of eight high schools in Queens, the fate of LIC H.S. and that of 18 other city schools, 26 in total, will be determined by a vote of the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) on April 26. The PEP is comprised of five members appointed from each borough and eight members appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“I want the people on the stage to listen to the kids and their parents,” Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said at the public hearing. “They should listen to you.”
If approved, the Department of Education (DOE) proposal to adopt the turnaround model at Long Island City, William Cullen Bryant, Grover Cleveland, Newtown, Flushing, August Martin, John Adams and Richmond Hill High Schools will close all of these venerable institutions at the conclusion of the academic year in June and replace them with new schools in the same building.
“We have to say enough is enough to the DOE,” Fedkowskyj told a packed auditorium of students, teachers, and supporters. “I urge your attendance at the April 26 PEP meeting to speak your mind as to why Long Island City [and the eight other Queens schools] should not be closed.
“I firmly believe that this proposal treats [schools] as a business model,” Fedkowskyj continued. “We need a model in place that can sustain long-term gains [and] the turnaround model doesn’t do that,” he said to sustained applause and cheering.
“We believe there’s a lot of talent in this building,” Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow- Suransky, the city Chief Academic Officer and second in command at DOE to Chancellor Dennis Walcott said. “The goal of [turnaround] is to improve opportunities for the young people in this building,” he said in explanation of the proposal to close Long Island City H.S.
“Tonight we’re going to hear from many teachers, students, and families who have been well served by this school,” Polakow- Suransky said. “But many ninth graders who entered this school four years ago are not here as seniors,” noting that the graduation rate at LIC H.S. remains problematic, even in the face of improvement in the last two years.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, a graduate of Long Island City H.S., disagreed. “The proposal would do more harm than good,” he said in a statement. “I believe a better solution can be found that would not have such a negative impact.”
“These changes would only increase uncertainty and undermine any progress,” Assemblymember Aravella Simotas concurred, also in a statement. “Our students need a consistent investment in their education, not a turnaround.”
The PEP hearing is on Thursday, April 26 at 6 p.m. at Prospect Heights Campus, 883 Classon Ave., Brooklyn.